Gwinnett County Jail inmate Ibrahim Mujic didn’t initially think much last week when he heard a fellow inmate say he wanted to kill himself.
“(The inmate) was outside talking about, ‘Man, I’m about to hang myself, I’m going to hang myself,’ but no one really paid attention,” Mujic said. “I heard him, but some people just say things like that, so I didn’t really think he was serious.”
Less than an hour later, however, Mujic, two other inmates and a Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Office deputy were saving that same man from doing just what he’d threatened — trying to hang himself from the upstairs handrail of the jail pod.
Now, just more than a week after the incident, the three inmates — Mujic, Vince Wallace and Frederick Huse — and Deputy Fein Gracia are being hailed as heroes for their quick actions, which likely saved the inmate’s life.
According to jail surveillance video, the afternoon events — the exact date and time of the incident is being withheld to protect the inmate’s identity — unfolded in less than a minute, beginning when the man walked out of his upstairs cell with a bed sheet tied around his neck.
“He came out and sat at the edge of the rail, and when he sat at the edge of the rail, he started tying (the other end of the bed sheet) to the rail,” Wallace said. “I was like, ‘Man, what’re you doing?’ Deputy Gracia ran over there and I ran over there and (the man) jumped and let go, and (Gracia and I) were holding him up. Gracia said, ‘hold him’ and I held him while (Gracia) got up on the table to untie him. (Mujic) then ran upstairs to untie him too and I was up under there trying to hold him to make sure he didn’t fall. I was holding him up best I could, because I could imagine what would have happened if I had dropped him — you know, his life was in my hands.”
Gracia and Mujic were able to successfully untie the inmate, who Wallace then lowered to the ground. But the inmate still wanted to hurt himself, and got up and tried to run to the other set of stairs across the jail pod.
That’s when Huse stepped in, tackling the inmate and pinning him to the ground before he could get up the stairs and make another suicide attempt.
“(The inmate) is young, so it’s devastating to see something like that,” Huse said. “It’s hard to explain, but I thought of my own kids and how I’d want somebody to help mine (if they were suicidal). He’s a human being, too, and he breathes like I breathe, so to see someone pass in front of me — I just couldn’t let that happen.”
“In life, you’ve got an obligation; it’s already built in you to do good,” Huse continued. “I guess you could say God made me (help him) and made me come in at the right time, but when you see something like that, it touches you and I don’t think anybody wouldn’t have helped.”
Wallace echoed Huse, saying he, too, felt he had an obligation to help save the man.
“I’ve always been known to do that, and I was raised like that — if you can help somebody, help them,” Wallace said. “Also, it could have been one of my kids, it could have been my grandson. I wouldn’t have wanted nobody to not help them.”
As for Gracia, he said he was thankful the inmates jumped in when they did, because he likely couldn’t have done it alone.
“I was holding (the inmate) with two hands, but I would have had to let him go at a certain point to call (for backup),” Gracia said. “Without them, I would have had to let him go for a few seconds to make the call, so it was good they were there. Them helping me shows me, too, that ‘Hey, you’re treating (these inmates) with respect,’ and that when things happen — I’m not going to say all of them will have your back — they will help.”
Huse said he hopes the inmate who was suicidal knows the pod has his back, too.
“I looked him in his eyes when I grabbed him and I felt like he was empty when I looked into him,” Huse said. “I don’t know if he has family, a girlfriend, a wife, but for me personally, it’s like, ‘You’re human, your heart beats like mine, you’re somebody. Know that.’”